Parent Involvement Tips From Our Community

by Rose Hamilton



We had a fun time during recent our Parent Involvement Live Q&A on Facebook! Thank you to all the parents who shared great ideas! Your contributions were terrific and we are sure they’ll help many PTO and PTA leaders. 

Here’s a mashup of the highlights: 

1. General tips to build involvement: 

Parent involvement is about building relationships. If you want parents to connect with your group, don’t just ask for money and time, but give something back to them like  resources and support. 

Try a push for volunteers in the fall and then do another in the spring. The spring push will be a shorter list, so it may catch parents’ attention by appearing less overwhelming.

Post an event schedule at the beginning of the year and then remind parents of upcoming events every month. This helps folks remember to put events on their calendars. 

Our free 2-Hour Power volunteer pledge program got a good response from the group. One parent said she uses the pledge and combines it with free admission to an event as a way to appeal to parents. 

Try a “help wanted” ad in an upcoming newsletter (or on Facebook) with specific requests for help, and include time slots. 

Have a room parent or class rep in place to help communicate the PTO or PTA messages to parents. 

Thank volunteers publicly with shout-outs on Facebook and in your newsletter. 

2. How can low-income schools and schools with diverse populations reach out to all families and encourage involvement? 

Get to know families and encourage parents from all cultures to join your group. As one parent points out, “The only way to truly represent your school community is for the leaders to come from various parts of the community.”

Go beyond traditional ways of communicating and be willing to get out of your comfort zone. Walk up to parents and introduce yourself at events, or any time you are at the school. 

Be willing to get your email out there to parents and encourage them to reach out to you with questions and feedback. 

Do a summary of your meeting minutes and post them on Facebook immediately following your meeting. 

A potluck dinner is one of the best ways to help bring together a diverse community. We actually did a really fun story about a potluck that may spark some ideas. (And if you are planning a potluck, we have a customizable potluck flyer you can use to get the word out.) 

Also, try going beyond just a potluck. Try hosting one at the same time as a fundraiser. Add no-cost games or activities to the evening. This way, you are welcoming all families (including those who can’t afford to contribute to your fundraiser but still want to be there.) do you want to add Family Potluck Flyer?

3. What do you do if you have a big event like a spring carnival fast approaching and you don’t have enough volunteers? 

Try reaching out to high school students. National Honor Society students often have community service hours to fulfill.

Use a volunteer coordinator to ask people to help out for specific time slots. 

Ask volunteers to help out for small chunks of time, and in exchange give them free tickets for the carnival. 

4. What do you do about no-shows? 

You know those folks who promise to help out and then never come to the event? While the urge to call them out is understandable (and even justified), it’s better to publicly praise the folks who did help out. Maybe the no-shows will get the message.

Also, you can try a private, one-on-one conversation with someone if they’ve really let you down.  

5. How can we boost meeting attendance? 

We had lots of questions on how to build attendance and on how to schedule meetings to bring in the most people. Suggestions included alternating meeting times—holding a morning meeting one month and an evening meeting the next, with babysitting service provided at the evening meetings.

We also thought this was a cute idea for a meeting: Ask local businesses to provide prizes and do a drawing at each monthly meeting. Try a “lucky envelope” activity. Each person gets an envelope when they arrive at the meeting. At the end of the meeting, each person takes a turn opening their envelope. Every envelope contains an inspirational quote, which the person reads to the group. One “lucky” envelope also contains a gift card. 

6. What types of ideas work for a wide range of age groups (preK-8)? 

Go for a few schoolwide events each year, but also try to hold a few age-specific events, like a dance and activity night for the upper grades and a movie pajama night for the little ones. 

7. What can you do when you ask someone for help and the response is, “Sorry, too busy”? 

Try to avoid that in the first place. If possible, try to match up a volunteer job with a parent’s interests. 

8. What can you do for parents who work full-time or nights and just don’t have time to get involved? 

Look for jobs that can be scheduled at times convenient to parents, like copying flyers. A parent who works the night shift may be able to pop into school at drop-off time and do that job. Also, remember to schedule some events on weekends, not just on weeknights.

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